The sun had stopped shining now, the wind that had blown in from the east seemingly extinguished the light like a dying candle struggling to survive. The day was young still, yet the streets were empty. People at work, kids in school. The ordinary pluck of the strings of life vibrated through the city. Heavy now with silence, it weighted on his shoulders as he rounded a bend and dived down a graffitied lane, sneaking inside a side door. He carried a small brown paper bag, but its contents; like people, were more precious than the coverings.
“Did anybody see you?” The voice in the shadows asked.
“Nobody ever sees me.” He replied, pulling down his hood.
The other man sighed, seemingly resigned to thinking this was all a game to him. He motioned him to follow as he made his way along a dark corridor. They passed the kitchen of the small Chinese restaurant, and slipped through a door that led up a flight of stairs. The stairway was small and dirty, boxes of cooking oil were stacked on high making it difficult to pass. Foreign labels and battered cardboard, cheap easy food to feed hundreds.
“Are you sure this works, your source is good?” the man asked the younger as he ascended the small flight.
The man in the hoody stopped walking up the stairs, remaining on third step from the bottom.
“Am I wasting my time here?” He asked in reply.
Their eyes caught in the dull light of the stairwell, dying embers of brown met the fiery defiance of hazel. The sound of the streets beyond the walls rung through them, a tram’s bell tinkered off in the distance reminding them of their place deep inside the city. Inside the belly of the beast.
“No, I am sorry. It’s just, they have put all their hope into this.” The older man said, opening his hand in a peaceful gesture.
“Hope is all we have it seems.” The younger man replied, and continued on up the stairs. They both carried on to the top and walked across the landing until they reached a small crowded room that stunk of fried food and desperation. Inside more people than the room should allow seemed to reside in every part. Beds had been stacked on top of each other and bodies filled them, young and old. The middle of the room had an upturned box used as a makeshift table, similar to those he had passed on the stairs, stained with oil from within perhaps. It was covered with food boxes, cups and the faint glow of a phone’s light.
“It is here.” The older man announced, and the people inside the room began to stir. The younger man followed him in and moved towards the small table. He pushed some of the empty boxes onto the floor and then placed the paper bag on top, then stood back. The older man appeared at his side, placing a hand on his shoulder which he flinched to.
“May I?” the older man asked, motioning towards the bag.
“Be my guest.” The young man said and watched as he approached the bag, unfolding the top with his eyes alive like a child’s at Christmas.